Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 1/13/2021
You don’t have to be a model to know that angles are everything. Taking a photo from the wrong angle can skew the proportions of your face or give you the appearance of having a double chin (or triple).
The camera has been known to lie, but if you’ve started to notice sagging or wrinkled skin around your neck, it might not just be the camera — it could be turkey neck.
Though the name is a little crude, turkey neck is incredibly common. Even if you have a beautiful complexion and your face is wrinkle-free, loose skin on your neck can give away your age and might even make you look older than you are.
The good news is you may be able to tighten loose neck skin with a few simple neck exercises or an adjustment to your skincare routine.
Below, we’ve covered everything you need to know about turkey neck including what it is, what causes it, and what treatment options are available. We’ve also assembled several neck exercises and skincare tips to help you get rid of your turkey neck.
When you think about the visible signs of aging, fine lines and wrinkles probably come to mind but you’re probably picturing them on your face. In reality, the décolleté (the skin around your chest and neck) is often the first to show the signs of aging.
Turkey neck is an indelicate term used to describe the wrinkled, saggy skin on the neck that tends to develop in the 30s and 40s. Some refer to it as jowls or even a “wattle” due to its unfortunate similarity with the excess skin on the neck of a turkey. Fortunately, while the wattle is a natural part of the turkey’s anatomy, you can get rid of yours if you want to.
Three primary factors contribute to the development of turkey neck:
Loss of skin elasticity
Weak neck muscles
Excess neck fat
Let’s start with loss of skin elasticity.
The skin on your neck and chest is thinner than on your face and it contains fewer sebaceous glands which makes it more prone to damage.
If you think about it, your neck and chest get just as much sun exposure as your face, but you may tend to neglect this area when it comes to sunscreen.
Sun damage plays a significant role in the breakdown of collagen which causes the skin to lose its youthful elasticity.
Collagen is a protein that provides structure and support for the skin.
As you get older, collagen production slows at a rate of about one percent per year, which contributes to the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.
In the same way your collagen production naturally slows over time, the muscles that support your neck may weaken.
At the same time, the skin over your neck may weaken with lack of support or lack of use, adding to the appearance of sagging neck skin.
Finally, some people just naturally carry more fat under their chin than others. Extra fat deposits can cause the skin to stretch, creating folds that look like a turkey’s wattle — hence the crude term “turkey neck.”
It may also simply be an issue of anatomy.
If the hyoid bone (a small U-shaped bone in the neck) is set further back toward the spine, the skin on the neck may be pulled back at a sharper angle.
When the bone is set further forward, it pushes the skin on the neck into a rounder shape. As your skin loosens with age, it can worsen the appearance of turkey neck.
If you’re sick of sagging skin and tired of your turkey neck, you’re not alone. Fortunately, there are a number of effective treatments for wrinkled, saggy neck skin. Below, we’ve covered a wide range of turkey neck treatments including skincare products, plastic surgery, and non-invasive options.
Before you consider invasive treatment options or injectable treatments, it may be worth trying a topical skincare product. Anti-aging products like neck cream contain ingredients that can help hydrate the skin, boost collagen production, and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Retinoids are a popular anti-aging skincare product that may help.
Retinol is a vitamin A derivative that helps speed skin cell turnover and boosts collagen production.
In fact, it’s an FDA-approved treatment for wrinkles and even comes in a prescription-strength form called tretinoin.
Some studies have also found that N-acetyl glucosamine has a firming and smoothing effect which can be beneficial for turkey neck. This is an ingredient in many anti-aging products including neck cream.
One study, for instance, examined 42 women over 16 weeks who used an anti-aging neck cream containing N-acetyl glucosamine and found at the end of the study that the cream delivered “significant firming and smoothing effects” with no significant side effects.
In fact, they found that it reduced hyperpigmentation, too.
When applying topical anti-aging products to reduce turkey neck, be cognizant of your technique. Remember the skin over your collarbone and on your neck is delicate, so use gentle pressure — avoid tugging. You should also move in upward strokes along your neck and jawline.
If you’re looking for faster and more noticeable results without a long recovery time, Botox could be the right solution for you.
Botox is an injectable treatment that may help smooth the skin to reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
Keep in mind, however, that the results only last three to six months and you may need multiple injections to achieve and maintain the desired result.
For longer lasting results than Botox, you may consider cosmetic surgery. If excess fat in the neck area is your problem, neck liposuction could be a fairly straight forward fix.
It consists of one or two small incisions behind the ears or under the chin to insert a small liposuction cannula to remove excess fat. In some cases, however, you may need a neck lift as well to achieve the desired effect.
A neck lift is also known as a platysmaplasty. It’s a plastic surgery procedure that involves removing excess skin and fat from the neck to create a slimmer, smoother profile. This procedure has a longer recovery time and comes with a risk of bruising as well.
If you’re looking for a non-invasive treatment option that offers proven benefits, the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA) recommends ultrasound, radiofrequency, or laser resurfacing treatments.
Ultrasound therapy involves using an ultrasound machine to send heat deep into the skin which may trigger the body to produce more collagen.
Patients typically see modest lifting within 2 to 6 months with a single treatment.
Radiofrequency uses a special device that heats the tissue underneath to produce a similar result.
The difference is some patients experience tightening right away. Even so, you’re most likely to see the full result in about 6 months and you may require more than one treatment.
Laser resurfacing is a slightly more invasive procedure but still considered minimally invasive. It involves using a laser to remove the surface layer of skin cells to speed cell regeneration.
This procedure requires five days to seven days of recovery time, but you may see results in as few as two weeks.
Another thing you might consider is whether weight loss is the best way to reduce your turkey neck.
Excess fat in the neck area is a key contributor to this turkey neck, and losing weight may help tighten the skin in your neck area.
Regular exercise could also help with toning your neck muscles.
Regular exercise is the best way to keep your body fit, and believe it or not, the same goes for your neck muscles.
Exercising your neck muscles not only helps to strengthen and tone them, but it also boosts circulation, which can be beneficial for skin health and appearance.
Though there are no reputable studies yet that support the efficacy of neck exercises reducing turkey neck, you may find them helpful.
The following neck exercises may help you tighten neck skin and increase neck muscle strength to reduce the appearance of turkey neck.
Keep in mind, however, that these are just suggestions — but the way we see it, they certainly can’t hurt. You can limit them to once a week, or spend some time doing these exercises daily. So long as you’re not overexerting these muscles groups and hurting yourself, do them as often as you’d like.
Though you may consider the act of chewing primarily as a jaw exercise, it also works the muscles in your neck.
Sitting upright in a hair, tilt your head back slightly, ensuring that your jawline is pointing towards the ceiling. Keeping your lips closed, make a chewing motion.
Repeat this at least a couple dozen times and see how your muscles feel. Think you can do more? Go for it.
It may sound weird, but you’ll actually begin to feel the muscles in your neck, under the jawline, contract. Do that for a little while and you’ll start feeling that burn.
This particular neck exercise works the underlying musculature in your neck. If done right, you should be able to feel the muscles at the base of your neck, closer to your clavicle, begin to tighten.
Start by sitting upright with your posture straight. Then, tilt your head back just far enough to be eye level with the line where your wall meets your ceiling. Pucker your lips (yes, like a kiss — get the joke, now?) and hold them in the pucker position until you begin to feel the muscles on your neck tighten.
It can take a few seconds, so hold it for at least a five-count.
Once you feel the neck muscles tighten, release the pucker and lower your head. Feel free to move your head around in a circular motion to keep the muscles loosey goosey.
Repeat as needed.
Form is important for this one, so play close attention. You’ll be able to feel when you’re working your arms or you’re targeting your neck muscles — so don’t be afraid to feel it out.
Sitting upright in your chair, place your hands on your forehead, acting as a barrier to push against. You can also use a wall if you can manage to keep your posture straight.
Whether on your hand or your wall, push your forehead against the barrier, making sure you’re not actually allowing your head to move forward.
If done right, the resistance will trigger your upper neck muscles, just below your ears. Hold this position until you can feel these muscles begin to tighten, and then release.
From here, either turn around so you’re facing away from the wall, or scoop both hands behind your head. Push the back of your head against the barrier until you begin to feel the muscles in the back of you’re neck — toward the base of your skull — tighten.
We know — pretty neat, right?
Repeat as necessary without straining yourself.
Though all of these exercises stretch and tone your neck muscles, this one really helps strengthen them.
However, quick word to the wise: do not continue this exercise if it causes neck pain.
Lie flat on your back on the edge of your bed, with your head hanging off.
Slowly lift your head until it’s horizontal with the rest of your body, hold it there for a few seconds and then slowly let it fall back down toward the floor. Repeat as necessary.
As we get older, our skin naturally loses some of its elasticity and starts to sag. Unwelcome as this change may be, it’s completely natural. That being said, there are a number of simple things you can do to keep your skin health and to retain your youthful appearance for as long as possible.
The best thing you can do is love the skin you’re in. You only live once, so it’s important to take care of your skin. Plus, a daily skincare regimen is the best defense against the aging process.
Keep your skin healthy with regular exercise, a balanced diet, and daily sun protection.
Sun exposure can age you more quickly than anything, so don’t skip the SPF 30 when you’re getting ready to head out for the day.
A healthy body is the best recipe for achieving healthy skin — so take care of yourself!